Raiders rookie Tanner Muse begins transition from safety to linebacker

Raiders rookie Tanner Muse begins transition from safety to linebacker

Tanner Muse knew there would be questions. After all, he would be moving from safety, his primary position at Clemson, to linebacker in the NFL.

And so Muse wasn’t caught off guard when Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden hit him with an hourlong pop quiz before the NFL draft.

The subject was run fits, or the gap assignment each player on the defensive front has in building a wall at the line of scrimmage to defend the run. For reasons ranging from what the offensive formation looks like to whether it’s a zone or man blocking scheme, it’s much more complex than simply filling gaps with bodies.

Muse knew this was a pretty big moment.

“You might not have the same terminology as other people, teams, things like that, but you just got to know your ball,” he said.

Read the full story on Muse at the Review-Journal

Raiders 2020 NFL Draft grades: Clemson's Tanner Muse has what team covets

Raiders 2020 NFL Draft grades: Clemson's Tanner Muse has what team covets

Raiders general manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden showed how much they value players from winning cultures in the 2019 NFL Draft. They drafted three players from Clemson last year, and added another member to the Clemson West family Friday when they selected linebacker/safety Tanner Muse with the No. 100 overall pick.

Muse is a physical, versatile defensive player who manned safety for Brent Venables' defense at Clemson. But Muse likely profiles as a weakside linebacker at the NFL level. His urgency, speed and size should fit well playing in the box and in a pursuit-style role.

Initially, Muse should play a key role on special teams for the Raiders. With the acquisition of Cory Littleton in the offseason, the weakside linebacker role is occupied. But Muse's ability to play both linebacker and safety will give the Raiders much-needed depth and versatility.

His effort also is off the charts.

Muse put his athleticism on display by blazing a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and recording a 124-inch broad jump.

[RELATED: Raiders draft grade: Edwards could be massive steal]

While Muse played safety at Clemson, he lacks the fluidity to handle coverage duties as an NFL safety, and will have trouble sticking with wide receivers and running backs in coverage. He had a nose for the football at Clemson, and shows good ability to diagnose plays, and he has the straight-line speed to blow up misdirection attempts.

Muse's ability to be a starter will depend on how well he can cover tight ends.

The Raiders didn't look at the value of the No. 100 pick in a vacuum. They traded down from 91 to 100, picked up an extra fourth-round pick and selected a guy they believe fits their culture, can immediately contribute on specials teams, and has the intelligence and physicality to be a starter at the NFL level.

The versatility, athleticism, intelligence and nose for making big-time plays are why he'll be wearing silver and black.

Grade: C-minus

[RAIDERS TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

NFL Draft 2020: Why Raiders could pick from college football's best

NFL Draft 2020: Why Raiders could pick from college football's best

The Raiders coaching staff ran last year’s third and final rookie minicamp practice in Clemson gear. It was homage to their 2019 draft class, which contained three Tigers alums.

General manager Mike Mayock and coach Jon Gruden took edge rusher Clelin Ferrell in the first round, cornerback Trayvon Mullen in the second and receiver Hunter Renfrow in the fifth.

Those weren’t the only Raiders selections from a championship program, either. First-round running back Josh Jacobs came from Alabama and fourth-round tight end Foster Moreau played at LSU. Even first-round safety Johnathan Abram has SEC pedigree, playing for both Georgia and Mississippi State.

All told, six of the Raiders' nine picks last year came from Clemson, Alabama or the rest of the SEC.

Coincidence? Absolutely not.

The Raiders wanted character guys from winning programs, players used to success and the methods that earn it. Both are key traits in turning a franchise around. That’s why they ended up with so much talent from elite programs, Clemson and Alabama especially.

“Championship mindset is what we are after here,” Gruden said last May. “We are interested in guys that have won certainly. We are also more interested in winners. I got a real good feeling about all these players (from the 2019 draft class). They have a winning culture that they have grown up with. They have a competitive spirit that I admire, and to come from Clemson, or come from Alabama, or come from a championship program, at least they know what it’s like to be on top and how hard it is to get there.”

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The Clemson connection obviously stood out with the sheer volume, which also prompted the coaches to don purple and orange in honor of it.

“It will be a new tradition that we do every year,” Gruden said at the time. “I’ve got this to say about Clemson; you’ve got to watch all their tape because they are the best team in college football and they got a lot of good players at every position, and some of the underclassmen will keep us wearing that orange color next year I hope because they are loaded.”

[RELATED: NFL Draft 2020: Mike Mayock explains how Raiders view deep receiver class]

The 2019 BCS National Championship Game made an impression on the Raiders brass, and Mayock came away from that Levi’s Stadium contest impressed with a lot more players than just Ferrell, Jacobs, Mullen and Renfrow.

Several players who wowed in that game (and several games since) are available in this draft class, including Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy, Clemson receiver Tee Higgins and Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell.

It’s quite possible the Raiders will go after players from top programs again this NFL draft, looking for more of what they got last year.